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Youth served in changing face of Gold Glove voting

A new approach was taken to the Rawlings Gold Glove voting this year.

An element of statistical analysis was added. The Society of American Baseball Research Defensive Index accounted for 25 percent of the vote -- and for good reason. Baseball wants to avoid situations like 1999, when Rafael Palmeiro won the American League first-base award despite serving as a designated hitter in 128 games.

But did the big change make much of a difference?

No way to know unless at some point Rawlings decides to release whether the SABR Defensive Index changed any of what would have been the final votes if it had been left up to the managers and coaches.

Yes, there were eight new faces among the 18 honored players this year.

No, that's not unique.

Going back to 1959, the year after the Gold Glove was split into separate votes for the AL and National League, the results in 27 of 55 years saw six or more players awarded the first Gold Glove in their careers, and there have been at least six new faces each of the last seven years.

There also were eight first-time selections in 1985, 1990, 2000, 2008, and 2011, and there were a record-setting nine first-time winners in 2007, 2001, and 1980 with a class that included shortstop Ozzie Smith, who won a shortstop record 13 Gold Gloves before he retired.

Not to discount any weight the statistical analysis may have had in determining the results -- and a guess would be that Milwaukee center fielder Carlos Gomez might have benefited the most -- a lot of the new look could be attributed to the fact baseball has a growing list of young stars.

Six of the first-time selectees have fewer than three years of big league service, including Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado, who did not make his big league debut until April 28.

He was only the 10th rookie to win a Gold Glove, the first rookie at third base since Frank Malzone of the Boston Red Sox in the inaugural season of the award in 1957. He was the first rookie to win a Gold Glove since Seattle outfielder Ichiro Suzuki in 2001 and the first rookie infielder since second baseman Ken Hubbs of the Chicago Cubs in 1962.

Other rookies to win Gold Gloves were catchers Johnny Bench (1968), Carlton Fisk (1972), Sandy Alomar Jr. (1990) and Charles Johnson (1995), and outfielders Tommy Agee (1966) and Fred Lynn (1975).

Among the other NL first-time winners, shortstop Andrelton Simmons of Atlanta had played only 49 big league games before this season, and Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt just finished his second full big league season. Gomez is the one veteran of the group.

Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez and Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado were both in their first full big league seasons. Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer didn't make his big league debut until May 6, 2011. And then there is the 39-year-old Torono knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who was a first-time winner, too.

And one of the repeat honorees, three-time Gold Glove outfielder Adam Jones of Baltimore, actually had a negative defensive runs saved but still beat out Lorenzo Cain of Kansas City and Jacoby Ellsbury of Boston.

There was nothing about the new approach that impacted St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina, who was honored for the sixth year in a row, joining Ivan Rodriguez (13 times), Bench (10), Bob Boone (seven) and Jim Sundberg (six) as the only catchers to be selected six or more times.

Only one other honoree, second baseman Brandon Phillips, has won as many as four Gold Gloves.

Molina, 31, and Phillips, 32, are among only six of the 18 winners who are 30. The others include Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy, 31; Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright, 32; Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino, 32; and Dickey.

And it was a year in which six of the Gold Glove winners were 25 or younger, Machado (21), Arenado (22), Perez (23), Hosmer (24), Simmons (24), and Goldschmidt (26).

It is a different look to the Gold Glove selection.

It came in a year when there was a different voting system.

And while it did not appear to make a difference, it did add a legitimacy to the evaluation of the game's best defensive players.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for